Machines take over high-risk tasks
As the logging industry continues to track a significant innovation curve in mechanisation, developing machinery to get workers out of high risk situations, East Coast logging contractor Stubbs Contractors is developing its own business alongside new innovations and new equipment.
Company founder Robert Stubbs has been in the logging industry for 20 years, and during that time has seen huge changes around health and safety and technology.
“And it will continue to change,” he says.
“We’ll get to a point where operators will be sitting in a container driving their machines in front of a screen.”
He says the industry has been in a bad space during the past few years with workplace injuries and deaths, and is now making a huge push to try to reform high risk tasks.
“Tree falling and breaking out, which is gathering the logs and hauling them out of the forest, are the most dangerous jobs in the logging industry,” he says.
“So the big push within New Zealand is on designing innovative equipment to do those high risk tasks with machines.”
One example is the steep slope harvester, a huge step forward towards achieving safety on the slopes.
Robert says three New Zealand companies have developed their own steep slope harvesters, and these are now starting to be exported around the world.
Robert is playing his part in the industry safety drive, as the local board member for the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) and a member of the operational advisory group for the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC).
“FISC was set up three years ago to address the safety concerns of the industry in the workplace,” he says.
“That safety council and the operational advisory group are doing a lot of work in these areas of high risk tasks.”
FISC is now setting up new tree faller certification and contractor certification in a bid to get employers and employees thinking about a new safety culture environment and changing the safety culture within their companies for the better.
“We all have to take responsibility for our own actions within the workplace,” says Robert.
“These new initiatives from FISC will help to make sure all the systems and support are in place within the working environment and the business you work in, which gives the employee all the support and mechanisation he needs to be safe within his role.”
Stubbs Contractors runs a team of 30 staff in four crews, three haul crews and one ground based crew.
Robert says that the market is currently very strong, with China’s construction industry still holding its own, export prices extremely good, and the ‘Wall of Wood’ planted in the 1990s now maturing and ready for harvest over the next 10 to 15 years.